Friday, July 20, 2012

Buttermilk Bacon Pralines

I made these delicious treats almost two months ago for a picnic I had in Central Park. It was a "going away for the summer" gathering I had. I brought my fancy camera and started snapping photos before people ate them all and then realized I forgot to put my camera card back in my camera! So, I tried to grab some photos via my iPhone, but I started eating these instead of concentrating on the pictures.
(iPhone Photo from Picnic)
Thankfully, I saved a couple at my house and took more photos later.

Fun thing about the picnic is that one of my friends is the sister of the gal who writes the blog I got this recipe from. How fun is that?

And a fun thing about this recipe is that it was my first time using a candy thermometer. Super fun!

( many times can I use the word fun in this post? Fun fun fun!)
Buttermilk Bacon Pralines (from Framed Cooks)

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (Erika's Extras: I used a little more orange zest and it was strong, but yummy!)
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled


1. In a heavy deep saucepan, combine the sugars, the buttermilk, corn syrup, baking soda and salt. Cook slowly over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until the mixture reaches 235 on a candy thermometer.2. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla, pecans, orange zest and bacon and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy. Be very careful - this stuff is HOT.3. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a silicone mat or buttered parchment paper. Let stand for 30 minutes or until cool and firm.

Bake well and prosper!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Black Forest Trifle (made with Gluten Free Brownies!)

One of the gals here at my summer opera program doesn't eat gluten products, so of course I jumped at the chance to make her a gluten free dessert.

I researched gluten free brownie recipes and tried two recipes. The first one did not bake well in altitude and although it was very good, it was very fudgey and messy. The second one was amazing and uses almond butter.
So, for July 4th I made a couple of trifles with the brownies and then also had the brownies by themselves on the side. All the opera singers LOVED it. (As did I.) And I even gave an extra trifle to the gluten-free gal to take home and enjoy.
Gluten Free Brownies (from Elana's Pantry)
1 (16 ounce) jar creamy roasted almond butter
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup cacao powder
½ teaspoon Celtic sea salt (Erika's Extras: I just used normal salt and it was fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate chips

In a large bowl, blend almond butter until smooth with a hand mixer.
Mix in eggs, then mix in agave and vanilla.
Blend in cacao, salt and baking soda, then fold in chocolate chips.
Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish (glass is better).
Pour batter into dish.
Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes.
(Erika's Extras: For high altitude baking I used 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and set the oven to 335.)

Almond Whipped Cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 cups heavy cream

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, and almond extract with an electric mixer. Beat until smooth. Add in heavy cream, incorporating a little at a time to prevent splattering. When all the cream has been added, turn the mixer to high, and beat until soft peaks form.
For the trifle, layer cream, brownies, and sliced cherries.
Bake well and prosper!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies and Special News!

I have been MIA from my blog and I'm sorry for this. The first half of June was filled with rehearsals and performances of an opera in NYC. Then, I left my office for a 7 week leave of absence and went to Lubbock,TX for the weekend after which I had a road trip to Colorado.
Because (drum roll please)...I am singing at a music festival for 6 weeks in Colorado! It's quite a change from NYC. (Understatement of the year.)

So, I've been busy getting ready for the festival and then acclimating to the new schedule AND new altitude.

While I haven't felt too out of breath singing, I HAVE while running. Whew! Hills are hard enough, but when at 9,000 feet elevation, they are just plain mean. At least the view is amazing. Here's a pic I snapped while running the second day in CO.
I haven't baked yet, but plan to this week. I need to read up on the differences for baking in altitude. I'm rather excited!

In the meantime, here are some cookies I made for the opera cast in NYC in the middle of June. (And I hope to blog again soon!)
Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies
(I made this up. It's quite easy. Take your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and add sea salt to the top of the cookies after they've been in the oven for half the bake time.)
1 stick of margarine/butter (I find that margarine will make them softer. Yum!)
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 egg well beaten
1 cup and 2 Tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (use the real thing....imitation vanilla is a poser!)
1/4 teaspoon of warm water (DO IT! TRUST ME!)
6 oz of semi sweet chocolate chip morsels (Personally, I'm a Nestle girl.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix margarine, sugars, and egg together until margarine chunks are quite small and well beaten. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together and then stir until well mixed. Add vanilla and then mix. Water and then mix. And then add in the chocolate chips last. Place dollops of dough on cookie sheet with plenty of room between each dollop. Bake 8-10 minutes. At the 5 minute point, pull them out and sprinkle sea salt on top.
Erika's Extra Notes: To get very lovely and soft cookies, take out of oven when they are still fluffy/slightly uncooked looking. They will cook more while cooling. If baking two sheets at once, make sure to switch the top to the bottom and vice-versa half way through baking.
 Bake well and prosper!